The Ibanag dialect was a very potent factor in the difficult and hazardous evangelization of the pagan and hostile inhabitants of the Cagayan Valley.
The Ibanag Language
A Web page by Dr. Carl Rubino, a linguist, featuring some Ibanag songs and an Ibanag translation of "The Monkey and the Turtle" story and an Ibanag bibliography.
The evangelization and pacification of the valley were difficult because the communities found by the colonizers were far apart, separated by primeval spans of wild forests with crocodile-infested rivers to cross or along which the missionaries and soldiers had to travel. There were also the great calamities--epidemic, locust infestations, floods and earthquakes--which caused great difficulties and sufferings to the people, and though to us today the calamities were natural phenomena, the pagan natives blamed their occurences on the coming of the white people.
The early chronicles of Cagayan Valley, the natives, especially the Irrayas and Gaddangs, were fierce and warlike. This was so, apparently because living in separate communities, independent of each other, they cultivated fierce love for freedom. Thus, they resisted the abuses committed by the officials and their encomienderos, to the extent of rising a revolt--the history of the province tells of numerous and frequent insurrections in some of which the native rebels killed all the Spanish officials.
It was always the missionaries who consoled the natives in time of the calamities and who pacified them when they revolted, for the guns of the Spanish soldiers were futile against the fury which the natives displayed in defense of their rights and sense of freedom.
How did the missionaries accomplish their difficult and hazardous tasks and pacification?
Mainly, because they and only they among the Spaniards, learned the Ibanag and, fired by their zeal to spread the Catholic faith, unmindful of the difficulties and dangers, they penetrated even the farthest native communities, and taught the Ibanag to the non-Ibanag speaking natives.
It should be remembered that at the time of the coming of the Spaniards, there were dialects spoken in the Cagayan Valley as there were distinct tribes. The pure Ibanag was spoken only from Masi or Pamplona to Gattaran.
In the Itawes district, composed of Piat, Tuao, Malaweg and Santa Cruz de gumpat, the Itawes dialect was generally spoken, with Cammang, Bayambanan, Malaweg, Nabayugan, Apayao and Aeta spoken by the respective tribes.
In the south district, the territory from Nassiping to Fural, a barrio of Gamu (Isabela), the spoken dialects were the Irraya, Gaddang, Iyogad, Catalagan, Dadayag, Aripa and Aeta. In general, Irraya was spoken from Tuguegarao, to Ilagan; the Gaddang from Reina Mercedes (Isabela) to Bayombong (Nueva Vizcaya); the Iyogad was the dialect in the plains of Diffun (Quirino) toward the Cagayan River; and in the towns of Dupax, Bambang and Aritao in Nueva Vizcaya, the Isinay and Ilongote were spoken.
In 1581, after he drove away the Japanese marauding the communities on both sides of the mouth of the Cagayan River, Captain Juan Pablo Carrion sailed to Lallo and founded there the Mission of Nueva Segovia which became the springboard of the missionaries in their evangelization of the valley and also the seat of the civil government was established in 1583.
The missionaries, on starting their evangelization work in the territory from Masi to Gattaran, had to learn the spoken dialect, Ibanag, in which they had to preach. They wrote cartillas, catechisms, and prayer books in this dialect. When they and the other missionaries were sent to the non-Ibanag speaking communities, they taught the dialect far and wide.
For example, when Beato, Fr. Luis Flores and R.P. Fr. Francisco Manego were sent to Pilitan, a place near Isabela, they were ordered to make their parishioners learn Ibanag.
In 1725, Fr. Jose Herrera extended the order to Bayombong. In this order, Fr. Herrera said, "I also order that all religious missionaries of Paniqui study Ibanag and see to it that the boys and girls recite all the prayers in Ibanag, and to those who come down from the mountains and who will be converted to our Holy Catholic faith, they should know the mysteries to be able to receive the waters of baptism, in the same language, so that in the course of time everybody will speak the Ibanag dialect."
Finally, toward 1876, the R.R. Fr. Ruperto Alarcon made it obligatory from Aparri to Carig. He transferred to Buguey a priest who was opposed to the idea.
In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Ibanag was spoken from the coastal towns of Cagayan to Bayombong, except among some tribes in the Itawes region and in Nueva Viscaya who, through the centuries, successfully evaded being christianized. Up to the third decade of the present century, only Ibanag was spoken in the problacions of Tuguegarao, Peñablanca and Solana, in Cagayan, and in San Pablo, Cabagan, Tumauini, and Ilagan in Isabela.
In Tuguegarao, a bilingual (Spanish-Ibanag) weekly newspaper, the Verdad, was published by Honorario Lasam, and later, another bilingual (English-Ibanag), La Sinseridad, was published by Antonio Carag and edited by Jose Carag. Good writers in Ibanag wrote in these newspapers. In the Verdad, Servando Liban maintained a lively, satirical column under his pen name,Allibut; and in Sinderidad, Agustin Saquing serialized in epic poem form the story of "Charlemagne and His Twelve Peers." Ibanag zarsuelas, dramas, poems and essays were common.
It was thus that the Ibanag known and spoken only from Pamplona to Gattaran on the arrival of the Spaniards late in the 16th century became the language generally spoken throughout the Cagayan Valley. Thanks to the zeal of the Dominican and Agustinian missionaries. The Ibanag was the potent instrument with which they successfully christianized the pagan natives through the long, almost 400 years of Spanish colonial regime.